White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday blamed former President Barack Obama’s administration for insufficiently vetting President Donald Trump’s embattled former national security adviser Michael Flynn, amid new questions about Flynn’s apparent failure to disclose payments he accepted from foreign governments.
“His clearance was last reissued by the Obama administration in 2016 with full knowledge of his activities that occurred in 2015,” Spicer said during his daily briefing. “All of that clearance was made during the Obama administration.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, suggested on Thursday that Trump’s administration is “covering up for Michael Flynn.”
“There is a paper trail that White House does not want our committee to follow,” Cummings said.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee announced Thursday morning that the Defense Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into whether Flynn sought required approval before receiving the payments.
“So is the implication there that should be taken, that if the Trump administration was the one adjudicating his clearance this year, he would not have been issued that clearance now that White House knows everything that there is about Gen. Flynn?” a reporter asked Spicer.
“No, I think I’m just making sure people understand the process and how it works,” Spicer replied.
“Not the process, but your own vetting, meaning the transition, are you satisfied that that met the standard that should have been met with Michael Flynn?” CBS’ Major Garrett asked.
“You’re saying our process. The process is, every government employee who is eligible for a clearance goes through the same process,” Spicer said. “So it’s not — we don’t have a unique process.”
“So General Flynn came in with just the Obama administration vetting? That’s the impression you’re giving,” CNN’s Jim Sciutto said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Sure it does,” Spicer said. “Hold on. Let me explain the answer to you, Jim. Calm down. The kids have gone,” he added, referring to journalists’ children who visited the White House for Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day. “Why would you re-run a background check on someone who is the head of the Department of the Defense Intelligence Agency that had and did maintain a high-level security clearance?”
House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on Wednesday also deflected blame for Flynn’s security clearance application to the Obama administration.
“It was the Obama White House that this would have fallen under,” he said on MSNBC. “Certainly I wouldn’t fault the Trump administration.”